It seems that every time we turn around there is another famous, semi-Christian famous, wanna-be-famous person sticking a skewer in the heart of Christian Orthodoxy. A couple of weeks ago the latest person to come out for the redefinition of Christian marriage was Eugene Peterson. He is also the latest person to come out and then affirm the Biblical view of marriage. I have grown to really respect Peterson over the years and I am not here to let Peterson have it. I think there was a lack of clarity in even his retraction yet I am comforted by his understanding of scripture and his years of faithful teaching. I do think this “Peterson” moment is instructive for us in a couple of ways. 1. You will be asked what you believe no matter who you are. 2. You will be asked to clarify why you believe what you believe.
The tendency in every generation is to either flee to higher ground and leave the conversation because “Ship has sailed” or to avoid controversial conversations and controversial issues altogether. The problem with both of those reactions is neither is inherently Christian. Our faith is an incarnational faith. It was not founded by fleeing or by embracing culture by God sending his only son into the world who didn’t deserve him or receive him. In Christ’s humanity he faced the struggles we all face in his Divinity he redeemed us and made us fully what we were always meant to be. In Kunkle and Stonestreet’s book A Practical Guide to Culture, they address the issue of our incarnational faith in this way:
Christ didn’t save us from being human; He saved us so that we would be fully human again. Thomas Howard brilliantly describes this in the following passage: “The Incarnation takes all that properly belongs to our humanity and delivers it back to us redeemed. All of our inclinations and appetites and capacities and yearnings and proclivities are purified and gathered up and glorified by Christ. He didn’t come to thin out human life; He came to set if free. All the dancing and feasting and processing and singing and building and sculpting and baking and merrymaking that belong to us, and that were stolen away into the service of false gods, are returned to us in the gospel.
The heart of the gospel is not one that drives us from the world in fear or living lives that embrace the world in hopes that our acceptance by the world will somehow make Jesus more popular. The heart of the Gospel is incarnation. God with us. God created perfection, We sinned, Christ Redeemed, God Restores. In Christ’s coming he didn’t just live along side he restored to what was always meant to be. When Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery he didn’t wink at her sin and send her on her way he forgave, restore and reclaimed what was his. He did what Galatians tells us he does he set her free from her bondage to sin. He returned what was stolen in service to false gods.
The challenge in facing cultural issues of our time we want to run from or embrace what Christ wants to restore and redeem. Most issues we have where Orthodoxy is being redefined is because we are elevating our experience over the Word of God and over the collective experience of those who have gone before us. Nearly every article you read where Orthodoxy is shunned and Scripture is ignored it is almost always connected to “I have this friend…” or “My family member has identified as…” No matter what the issue of the day is when we elevate our experience over the clear teaching of scripture we are in trouble. When we elevate our experience over the faith that has been handed to us the church is in danger.
The problem at the heart of every generation is not abortion, should Christians drink, or what did Paul really mean in Romans 1? The problem underneath each of these problems is do we believe the Bible is true? Do we believe the Bible is authoritative? Do we believe the Bible is sufficient? The reality is we have been called to teach, raise and model to our kids what it means to be faithful in the midst of our cultural moment.
The good news we most proclaim is that the incarnation takes all that properly belongs to our humanity and delivers it back to us redeemed. This includes our sexuality. We must teach our kids that our experiences are invaluable when properly vetted by scripture and by the faith delivered to us. If we meet a nice person who considers themselves to be SSA and a Christian, that does not negate what scriptures teach. Our kids must learn to value the scriptures above all else and to submit our likes, wishes, and desires to our incarnational God who doesn’t erase them but in Christ redeems and ultimately glorifies them. Our hope is that the things that our culture and the church in some ways has stolen in service to false Gods will be returned to us in the gospel.